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Comprehensive Land Use and Regional Growth Projects

Regional Transit Oriented Development Strategy

The Regional Transit Oriented Development Strategy – Transit Oriented Districts: A Strategy for the San Diego Region was accepted for inclusion as Appendix U.4 of San Diego Forward: The Regional Plan by the SANDAG Board of Directors on September 25, 2015 (Item No. 13). San Diego Forward was adopted by the SANDAG Board on October 9, 2015. This project was funded in part through a grant awarded by the California Strategic Growth Council.


SANDAG prepared a Regional TOD Strategy as part of San Diego Forward: The Regional Plan to promote and incentivize sustainable development throughout the region based on a commitment made at the time of the 2050 Regional Transportation Plan and its Sustainable Communities Strategy (2050 RTP/SCS) adoption on October 28, 2011.

The overarching strategy set forth in the 2050 RTP/SCS is to focus housing and job growth in the urbanized areas where there is existing and planned infrastructure; protect sensitive habitat and open space; invest in a network that gives residents and workers transportation options that reduce GHG emissions; promote equity for all; and implement the plan through incentives and collaboration. This strategy has been carried into San Diego Forward: The Regional Plan and the Regional TOD Strategy will help implement this strategy and San Diego Forward.

The Regional TOD Strategy recommends strategies and actions to assist the region in creating TOD projects and districts in association with the region’s existing and future network of public transit that will reduce GHG emissions; increase transit ridership, walking, and biking; and provide a greater mix of housing and employment opportunities for all residents of the region. The strategy builds upon and recognizes the existing foundation of smart growth planning tools and projects that have been put in place by SANDAG and the region’s local jurisdictions, including the Smart Growth Concept Map and Smart Growth Toolbox, the Designing for Smart Growth guidelines and scorecard, the Smart Growth Incentive Program (SGIP), and Parking Management Toolbox, among others.

Scope of Work

The scope of work for the Regional TOD Strategy includes reviewing the work on TOD and smart growth that has been accomplished throughout the region to date (by local jurisdictions, SANDAG, the transit agencies, and the private sector), reviewing best practices from other regions, analyzing the economic context and factors associated with TOD, identifying the challenges to TOD and ways to address them, and preparing a Regional TOD Strategy that focuses on implementation.

Working Papers

Six Working Papers and two background reports – Transit Oriented Communities in the San Diego Region Context Report and Economic Context Report – were prepared to help inform the preparation of the strategy. The Working Papers focus on issues associated with implementing TODs in the San Diego region, drawing upon the experience and lessons learned from other metropolitan areas in their attempts to address similar issues. The Working Papers address the following topic areas:

Urban Form, Density, and Land Use Regulation – Planning policies, particularly those related to land use, mobility, and urban form and design, and the associated zoning, engineering, and design regulations to implement those policies, influence transit oriented development. They can enable or constrain the market. There is no single formula and different approaches are used based on an area’s characteristics.

Connections: Travel Options, Mobility Management and Access Enhancements – The overall goal of TODs is to provide transportation choices for individuals that prefer mobility options, not to change transportation patterns for all. This Working Paper concentrates on how design changes at a district level can expand transit and other mobility options. TODs can provide benefits associated with healthy active transportation, fewer VMTs, energy savings, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

Housing Choices and Affordability – By providing affordable housing within walking distance of high-quality transit that connects to employment and other daily needs, communities can help households reduce their transportation costs, access jobs, and achieve upward mobility. Providing a range of housing options in transit oriented districts is also key to meeting regional goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing transit ridership. Ensuring that TODs are affordable to a range of households requires a variety of different strategies depending on the context.

Financing Infrastructure and Community Facilities – The success of transit oriented districts, as with all communities, depends on adequate infrastructure and public facilities. Successful TODs are not just a collection of developments. They are neighborhoods and communities that are accessible to and served by transit….One of the major challenges for TOD projects is the ability to fund public infrastructure, facilities and amenities needed to support new development. TODs may require significant investments in infrastructure and community facilities to support new development.

CEQA Streamlining and Travel Forecasting – Recently adopted statewide legislation, including Senate Bill (SB) 375, SB 743, and SB 226, substantially build upon the linkage between land use and transportation planning by requiring the integration of regional housing, land use, and transportation plans. Aspects of these laws also have the potential to streamline the environmental review process for projects in transit oriented districts by changing the methodology for assessing transportation impacts from automobile traffic congestion to criteria that focus on a broad suite of factors including vehicle miles traveled (VMT), greenhouse gas emissions, safety, and alternative modes of travel.

Readiness Criteria: Metrics for Transit Oriented Districts – The purpose of this Working Paper is to advance one of the key implementation tools proposed in the Context Report: the development of readiness criteria. The role of such metrics is to help policy makers and private investors evaluate and prioritize TOD opportunities. The high-readiness/high-benefit areas...that are TOD ready today—in terms of transit connectivity, market strength, available land, and local support—may need little more than visibility and marketing to attract private investment. Places that are generally TOD-ready, but lack a key ingredient or two, are targets for gap-filling public investment that can help overcome the remaining barriers to TOD.

Public Engagement

A number of public engagement activities were held in association with the development of the TOD Strategy as described below.

Working Groups, Community-based Organizations (CBOs) and Transit Agencies

A number of workshops and meetings were held with the Regional Planning Technical Working Group, Cities/County Transportation Advisory Committee, Active Transportation Working Group, Public Health Stakeholders Working Group, and the Community-based Organization Network. Individual meetings with MTS and NCTD staff also were conducted.

Focus Group Meetings

A series of group interviews were held with stakeholders, representing non-profit and non-governmental organizations, local governments, private sector interests such as developers and real estate representatives, and design professionals. A summary of the themes that arose during these meetings was prepared.

Transit Oriented Development Implementation Forum

On January 27 and 28, 2015, SANDAG convened national experts and local leaders for an engaging and informative discussion on lessons learned from other cities and regions, and opportunities for TOD implementation in the San Diego region. Nearly 150 people attended the Transit Oriented Development Implementation Forum on Tuesday, January 28, and 80 people participated on Wednesday, January 28. Forum attendees represented many stakeholders with an interest in TOD, including community group members, developers, local jurisdiction staff, elected officials, non-governmental organizations (such as the San Diego Housing Federation, Circulate San Diego, Environmental Health Coalition, Urban Land Institute, and Lambda Alpha), and the Community-based Organizations (CBOs) that have been working with SANDAG on San Diego Forward.

The TOD Implementation Forum was held to inform the development of the Regional TOD Strategy by identifying barriers to TOD, discussing potential solutions, and providing input on how SANDAG, local governments, and the transit agencies can work with the private sector to facilitate implementation of development projects. The program from the TOD Implementation Forum includes the forum agenda and biographies of the speakers. The slides from the presentations are available for download below.

Part 1: Introduction & Overview of the Regional TOD Strategy

Coleen Clementson (SANDAG) and Susan Baldwin, AICP (SANDAG)discussed regional population and employment growth and the role of local land use plans and policies. They also discussed the purpose and need for the Regional TOD Strategy and its relationship to SANDAG’s existing Smart Growth Concept Map (updated in October 2014) as well as the ongoing update to the 2050 Regional Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Strategy. The purpose and need for the Regional TOD Strategy, as well as goals and objectives, schedule, and next steps were also presented. View presentation. View video.

Part 2: Transit-Oriented “Districts” in the San Diego Region and Beyond

Bill Anderson, FAICP (AECOM) provided an overview of the importance of TOD to the San Diego region, and the role it plays in benefiting overall transportation in the region. View presentation. View video.

Part 3: Economic Context of TOD

Dena Belzer (Strategic Economics) described many of the factors that shape the market feasibility of TOD projects and the effect local government can have through land use regulation. View presentation. View video.

Part 4: Transit Supportive Neighborhoods in Portland

Gil Kelley, FAICP (Current, City of San Francisco / Former, City of Portland) described the process that Portland has been through as it has evolved around its transit and other mobility investments. View presentation. View video.

Part 5: Using Form-Based Code for TOD in Denver

Peter Park, FAICP (Current, Consultant / Former, City of Denver) provided an overview of Form-Based Zoning Codes, how they differ from conventional zoning codes, and their application to making successful TODs. Peter described how a Form-Based Code was developed for the City of Denver and the results of new development under the code. View presentation. View video.

Part 6: Challenges of Infill Development in California

Meea Kang (Domus Development) showcased infill projects throughout California, including TOD projects that have been successful despite many challenges. View presentation. View video.

Part 7: Connections

Mike Singleton, AICP, CTP, ASLA, LEED-AP (KTU+A) presented the importance of providing travel options to get to and from transit stations, improving access to transit stations, and mobility management in first and last mile connections. View presentation. View video.

Jim Lightbody, PE (AECOM) discussed how the City of Mountain View and Contra Costa County have been using transportation demand management (TDM) and infrastructure improvements to allow development near transit stations. GB Arrington (TOD Expert) presented case studies from Denver, CO and Redmond, WA. View presentation. View video.

Part 8: Affordable Housing and Housing Choices

Dena Belzer (Strategic Economics) described the opportunities and challenges to creating affordable housing as part of TOD projects. View presentation. View video.

Part 9: Financing Infrastructure and Community Facilities

Bill Anderson, FAICP (AECOM) described the range of financing tools that could be used to finance infrastructure and community facilities. View presentation. View video.

Part 10: CEQA Streamlining and Travel Forecasting

Yara Fisher, AICP (AECOM) and Robert Leiter, FAICP provided an overview of how CEQA and changes to travel forecasting methodology could benefit TOD areas. View presentation. View video.

Part 11: TOD Readiness Criteria

Al Raine (AECOM) described how metrics for TOD could be used to evaluate the “readiness” of different projects. View presentation.

Regional TOD Strategy Web Page

SANDAG has created this Regional TOD Strategy web page, which includes the final Regional Transit Oriented Development Strategy, six working papers, two context reports (economic and comprehensive), and panelist presentations and Discussion Group Notes and Comment Cards from the TOD Implementation Forum.